Naples Fishing November 2011

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Fishing Report: Redfish, snook fattening up for winter

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted November 23, 2011

NAPLES — If you are an angler interested in catching either snook or redfish, now is the time to be on the water. With a great run of bait off the beaches and pouring into the bays on the incoming tide, the fish are getting fat for winter.

There are at least three different year groups of redfish in local waters right now. You can get some rats that range around 16 inches, or cast into a group of fish that are in the lower end of the slot. Or maybe even get into the 24- to 27-inch fish that filet real well. Whatever group you encounter, they are eating everything in sight.

Cut ladyfish or mullet fished in the bushes works well, particularly on the bigger fish. Shrimp and live bait will be devoured as well, and you can easily work these baits around the oyster bars and over the grass flats.

Snook are on the move as well, and some of the biggest fish of the season are being hooked and sometimes even landed (and released). The numbers of these larger fish are very encouraging only a couple of years after the major kill following the severe cold spell in January 2010.

What is interesting is that, even though water temperatures remain above 70 degrees, most of the larger fish are not in or around the passes, they are in the backcountry.

Catching a three- or four-pound snook is exciting. Hooking a 30-plus-inch snook can be a heart-stopping experience. Fast and strong is the only way to describe the way these big fish fight. We have had several this week that have peeled off 75 to 100 feet of line in just seconds. Tuesday, we had one strip all the line off a spool on its way to the mangroves.

Trout and other inshore fish are making their presence known, too. Tuesday, I watched a single angler pull in sheepshead one after another. Some large trout, up to 22 inches, are being reported, and they are eating both shrimp and live bait or Gulp. Mackerel are just off the beaches, and some of those are running to three pounds. Oh yes, and jacks have come back in a big way. Most of these fish are in the five-pound range, but larger ones in the 7- to 10-pound range will wear you out.

With winds subsiding somewhat in the last couple of days, the offshore fishing has been hot. Red grouper and amberjacks make up the bulk of the catch, but cobia and barracuda are providing action for anglers, too.

Occasional contributor Charles Haskell was out the other day with his cousin Karl Iwinski and friend Artie, and they encountered a determined cobia that Charles finally brought to the boat. The monster weighed in at 50 pounds and measured 48 inches to the fork. Three keeper red grouper also made it to the boat.

Naples/Estero Bay: This past weekend, I once again took out Earl Brinker and his buddies Fred and Karl. In the two days, we boated close to 100 fish, with most of them being snook and reds.

After loading up on live bait, we worked the decent tides around islands and cuts to produce our fish. On Sunday, we landed four slot-sized snook and literally dozens of other snook, as well as numerous redfish. An interesting note is that on Saturday, we caught more reds and on Sunday more snook. Jacks up to 11 pounds added to the challenge.

Monday, I had Jerry Kern and his family onboard, and we had similar results. Four keeper reds went home for dinner, but the highlight was the 33-inch snook that Jerry boated and released.

Capt. Todd Geroy says this is one of the best big snook fall runs he can remember, and he has been doing this for 30 years.

After almost nonstop fishing for three weeks, Todd is taking a day off to recharge his battery. He has been finding snook in the 30- to 38-inch range on a consistent basis.

On a recent trip with Bob Messey, Tom Iverson, and Jaye Sandza, they hit the big girls hard. They sat in one spot for three hours, landing snook after snook, with a lot in the 30- to 38-inch range. Bob had the biggest fish for the day, a huge 17-pounder! Oh, and to keep things lively, big jacks were busting the baits too, and they ran up to 15 pounds.

Ten Thousand Islands: After a successful trip earlier in the week with the Hasten family, they returned and wanted snook, so Capt. Brandon Acosta set out from Everglades City to fulfill that request.

After loading up on pilchards, they headed well south to find the fish, which they found at the first stop. Snook up to 30 inches gulped down the live baits. As the tide came in, Brandon followed it to the back, and the snook were everywhere along the way. The Hasten group landed 25 snook for the day, with four in the 26- to 30-inch range, as well as a dozen reds in the slot and even one 25-inch trout. Pretty good day.

Capt. Pete Rapps says with the wind blowing for the past several weeks, he has been seeking the better water on the lee side of the islands out of Everglades City.

In fact, in some areas the visibility was too good. Water temperatures have been in the 74- to 76-degree range, making for great fishing. Pete says the redfish bite is fantastic, and he is getting most of them using a shrimp under a popping cork. The catch-and-release fishery for trout has been hot, too. On a recent trip, John Czencz from Miami nailed big reds, big snook, and even some flounder.

Offshore: Capt. Ed Nichols had a recent trip with the Gary Carlson party, who were out for a six-hour tour.

After venturing out about 24 miles, they made the first drop and were into fish immediately. Everything from keeper red grouper to banded rudder fish to snapper was brought to the boat by the crew. Even a shark and barracuda were released, but the top honors go to 10-year-old Isabelle, who won her battle with a 24 1/2-inch keeper red grouper that topped the scales at nine pounds. Great job, Isabelle!

According to longtime captain Tom Robinson, we have had a brush with red tide recently. Fortunately, it has been offshore about 10 miles, and seems to be only slightly causing problems for fish.

On Tuesday, Capt. Tom ran "Sea Legs" out about 25 miles, where they got into the keeper red grouper. Onboard were Bob Eidisvold with his sons and grandkids. They got their limit of red grouper to a nice 15 pounds, and also got into the amberjacks. Keeping one, they released seven to 35 pounds.

Tom was using live sardines and pinfish for bait. He also said he had a nice cobia around the boat, but that it didn't want to eat, which is a rarity for cobia. Kings have been absent from the offshore scene for a couple of weeks.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Fishing Report: Temperature fluctuations haven't hurt fishing

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted November 16, 2011

NAPLES — It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago we had water temperatures in the 80s, and now after several cold fronts we got as low as the mid-60s. That is some drop but it hasn’t hurt the fishing at all. It actually has improved it in most areas.

With the cooler water come more of our winter species. It is not unusual to catch seven to 10 different types of fish on one outing. On a trip Monday we got nine.

For the inshore angler this is the time to be on the water. Our fall bait run is in full swing and the fish are lining up for the buffet.

Inside waters are loaded with redfish from Estero down to the Ten Thousand Islands. We are in our second year of a bumper crop of these great fighting fish. Depending on the day they are eating live bait, dead bait, cut bait, shrimp and plain jigs. When you find one, you usually find a dozen or so.

Look for schools of mullet working the flats. Reds will likely be following to eat up the critters that the mullet stirred up.

Snook are also taking advantage of the situation and depending on the area you are in you may catch more snook than reds or just the opposite. A lot of the snook are making their way into the back country as the water cools, but you can still find some in and near the passes.

With the strong winds out of the east and northeast the low tides have been on the extreme end of the chart, so be careful. It is hard to enjoy fishing when you are stuck in three inches of water.

There are more and more reports of trout catches up and down the coast. Jigs worked slow on the bottom will do the trick if you can keep the ladyfish away. Don’t forget that all trout must be released until Jan. 1.

Along with the trout and ladyfish, a fair number of mackerel are making their way into the bays, and some of them are nice sized fish. The bummer is when you have a fish hooked and the line is making a bubble line as it moves through the water and another mackerel tries to eat it, resulting in a cut line.

Some pompano are showing up down in the islands south of Marco. Jig and shrimp are the ticket, but you must be quick to hook them. Prized as table fare these guys go for about $10 a pound at the fish market. Try cuts off flats or around the passes.

As I write this we have about 24 hours left in this year’s gag grouper season and a few of the offshore boats braved choppy seas to put a few more in the cooler for customers. Along with the gags there are still quite a few red grouper being caught and the large amberjacks are roaming the wrecks.

Speaking of wrecks and ledges, don’t be surprised if the decent fish on your line all of a sudden becomes much heavier and stronger. You will have just fed a goliath grouper. They, too, are showing up in good numbers and will range in size from a few pounds to the size of a small truck. Good luck.

Ten Thousand Islands: Capt. Brandon Acosta fished on Friday with the Burgess family for a half-day. Braving a cold front and the strong winds (and very low tides) he loaded up on shrimp and headed out.

The 8-year-old daughter caught the biggest red of the trip, a nice 22-inch fish. A number of other smaller reds fell for the shrimp before Brandon went in search of the black drum that have been showing up recently.

Four black drum later the happy crew headed in. On Saturday, Bryant had his son out fishing for his birthday and they headed well south of Everglades City in 20 mph winds. The bumpy ride was worth it, though. The duo boated more than 30 reds ranging from 17 to 23 inches using shrimp on a cork or shrimp tipped jigs.

Running out of Goodland, Capt. Aron Blaisdale says the fishing has been “fantastic”. Using shrimp to tip a bucktail jig his anglers have been hammering the reds daily. The fish are running from 20 to 23 inches for the most part, but a few smaller and larger fish have been regularly making an appearance. Fishing hard bottom on the outside, Aron has been finding some large trout to 23 inches and nice sized pompano, too. Lots of mackerel and ladyfish have added to the nonstop action down in the islands.

Naples/Estero Bay: Fishing in Dollar Bay with the Fleck family from Fort Wayne, Ind., on Saturday, Capt. Jim Wheeler put the group on both reds and snook during the half-day trip.

Chris caught his first-ever snook, a nice 30-inch fish, so he is now spoiled. Julie, not to be outdone, caught her first redfish, measuring 20 inches, so it went home for dinner. Jim has been using shrimp on a popping cork for most of his fish.

For those of you new the area and if you want to learn more about Fishing Southwest Florida, Capt. Wheeler is putting on a free fishing seminar on Dec. 2 from 1 to 3 p.m. Call 239-598-6133 for details.

Up in Estero Bay Capt. Neil Eisner said that the two days before and the two days after the cold front yielded some great fishing. With the very low water in the morning he worked the deeper cuts around the islands with shrimp either on a jig or under a popping cork. Good sized snook and upper slot reds were quick to bite.

As the water got higher Neil moved to the creeks where the fish continued to provide action. The shadow lines along the banks seemed to hold the fish as the water temp went from 68 in the morning to 72 just a couple of hours later. Neil says he has been seeing a ratio of 2 snook for every redfish recently.

Offshore: Gary Frazier and a group from the Brooks fishing club went out on the “Findictive” with Capt. Mike Avinon on Thursday. While the full day trip was bouncy it was well worth it. Sixteen keeper grouper went home for dinner (I hope Gary shared, he is a big guy) as well as three amberjack. The crew released an additional six AJ’s to 50 pounds, too.

With the winds strong, Capt. Tom Robinson onboard the “Sea Legs” kept closer to shore for a couple of days, running half-day trips. Lots of fish were caught and even a couple of keeper grouper went into the cooler.

On Tuesday the winds slowed quite a bit, and in an effort to get a few more gags before the season ended Tom took David Nelson, brother Rodney, friend Matt, Jim Bourdai and son Jordan 30 miles out. Four big gags to 30 inches seriously bent the rods before succumbing to the box. A dozen red grouper to 26 inches joined them. A few goliaths and a nurse shark helped to wear out the group and of course there were the amberjacks. Three to 20 pounds made it to the cooler.

Tom says the water way off shore was beautiful, but as he returned the water in the 15 mile range was brown and nasty looking. Red tide?

The “Captain Marvel” fought strong northeasterly winds on Sunday to get out to about 60 feet of water, but Capt. Tom Marvel says that by lunchtime the winds had dialed down a bunch. Using live pinfish for bait his anglers landed reds and gags to 11 pounds.

On Monday the winds were even less and the full day resulted in gags to 15 pounds and reds to 8. They ended up fishing in 70 feet of water west of Naples.

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Fishing Report: Migratory species beginning their trek south

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted November 9, 2011

NAPLES — Water temperatures reflect the fact that we have moved from our summer fishing into the fall transition period when things change rapidly in the fishing world.

Fronts become a regular occurrence bringing with them high winds and cooler temperatures. That starts the migratory species on their southerly route. Everything from small baitfish to larger species like king mackerel and bonita are coming our way.

Inshore we are starting to see species like sheepshead and bluefish ending up on hooks. Pilchards and greenies can be found along beaches from Estero to Marco and they are being consumed by ravenous snook and reds, not to mention some serious sized jack crevalle.

Water quality has been negatively affected by the winds and it may take some number of moves to find cleaner water, but even off-color water has been producing fish.

Down in the Ten Thousand Islands where the water has been somewhat dirty for quite a while, the redfish population doesn’t seem to care. We are seeing two different year classes of fish; some in the 16-17 inch range and another group ranging in the 20-23 inch range. This is a great thing for all of us anglers, and many old-timers are quick to point out that they haven’t seen this kind of redfish population ever!

Running well offshore has not been for the faint of heart recently due to rough seas, but for those willing to bounce a bit during the ride the fishing has been great. With just a few days remaining for the gag grouper season it’s now or never, especially with the less than ideal season set for next year. The gags have moved in fairly close to the beach and keepers are being reported as close in as six miles. Red grouper are still being landed on a fairly regular basis, but the tend to move further offshore as the water cools. Both types of grouper are being taken on everything from live pinfish to squid.

Another side of the offshore action are the cobia with several nice ones reported this week. Some of the boats are trolling around wrecks and pulling up some smoker kings. This action should only get better as the month goes on. Lots of Spanish mackerel are available from near shore to well offshore and can provide some great action for anglers. Use anything from live bait to jigs, to metal spoons to coax a bite, but be aware that cutoffs are as common as fleas on a dog so bring extra tackle.

Offshore: With seas less than calm it is usually difficult to come up with a couple of offshore reports, but this week we have three.

First off we have Capt. Mike Avinon of the “Findictive” reporting that he got in a half day on Friday and a full day on Sunday. His half-day crew was a group of vacationing Swedes who had a great time catching grouper and snapper. They put five keepers in the box.

Sunday, Capt. Mike ventured out 35 miles and the trip was bumpy to say the least but the action was hot. The group landed three gags to 10 pounds as well as four keeper amberjacks to 35 pounds. They also released goliath grouper to about 40 pounds, and one was in the act of eating a 10-pound grouper. Mike used live pins and grunts for bait and he said that the water offshore is fairly clear.

Capt. Tom Marvel says the grouper fishing offshore is still going strong. With the transition into fall fishing he is running into large Spanish mackerel and bonita out to about 15 miles and king mackerel around the wrecks. On Thursday’s trip they put grouper up to 8 pounds into the box and also caught several kings to over 40 pounds. Friday before the front his anglers put a dozen legal grouper up to 9 pounds in the cooler using squid in 60 feet of water.

Scott Williams and his group went out with Capt. Ed Nichols and ran to 60 feet of water to find their gag grouper. They limited out with fish up to 26 inches. Next on the agenda were the amberjack, and a number of smaller fish were caught and released as well as several banded rudderfish. Mangrove snapper and lane snapper rounded off the catch from the bottom, but a stop at a wreck on the way home resulted in a nice king and several Spanish mackerel.

Ten Thousand Islands: Redfish, redfish and more redfish, that is the story down in the islands again this week.

Capt. Matt Hoover has been consistently finding keeper fish for his anglers. On a recent trip with Jerry Dagliiducci they used jigs and shrimp to nail the fish. They got into reds of two different year groups. If you caught one smaller fish you could expect to catch more of the same size in that spot. A short move away you could get into an entirely different group of fish that ranged from 20 to 23 inches. An occasional 26-inch or better fish provided even more excitement.

Reds are being found everywhere from outside points to cuts well in the backcountry. Some legal-sized trout are showing up in the same areas and fish up to 20 inches were caught and released. A few smaller snook were also caught.

Capt. Pete Rapps reports that water temps dropped to the upper 60s after Fridays front passed through, but that doesn’t seem to bother the fish. On Friday he had Dean, Tommy and Inge from Marco Island out for a half day of fishing. Young Dean was the angler of the day with a nice 22-inch trout safely released. Several slot red, flounder and snook made for good action for the group.

On Saturday Tracy, Brittany, and Josh from Naples went out and they caught so many slot sized reds they lost count! They even hooked up with a good-sized shark that Tracy hooked, but gave to Josh to handle.

Estero/Naples: Capt. Todd Geroy has been putting his anglers on lots of snook on recent trips.

On a recent trip with Dave and Wayne more than 50 snook were hooked and boated, one of Todd’s best snook days since last spring. Reds were a little scarce for a few days, but fishing for them has picked back up. Live pilchards have been the ticket for snook, and the reds have been hitting the live bait as well as Gulp shrimp.

On an afternoon trip with Dorrie Barton, she had a great first cast. The result was a 19-pound, 41-inch snook! She went on to land more than 30 fish with a number of them in the 27- to 32-inch range.

Up in Estero, Capt. Steve Nagy has been doing well on snook on the inside islands. Averaging 30 snook in a half day, Steve is also finding reds on the grass flats. The reds have been eating live shrimp and cut ladyfish. Mackerel blitzing off the beach provide additional action for his anglers. He has been netting live pilchards off the beach to use on the snook and using white bucktails on the mackerel.

He has anglers cast towards the blitzing fish and after letting the jig to sink for a bit, has them work the jig fast back to the boat.

Freshwater: Capt. Shane Miller ran one of his freshwater airboat trips this past week. He said fishing was off a bit and they “only” caught 40 fish! This is all fishing with artificials in the middle of the everglades “grass meadows.” When the fish are on, Shane regularly reports catches of 100-plus fish.

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Fishing Report: High winds, low tides making getting around difficult

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted November 2, 2011

NAPLES — High winds plus low tides equal very little water left to fish in, and that has been the story for the past few days and is likely to continue through the weekend.

In fact, on Tuesday morning I was going to put my boat in the water at the Carl Johnson boat ramp in Estero Bay, but after seeing how little water was left in the bay, I decided to wait until Wednesday morning. With all the wind and rain, water temperatures have dropped significantly to the low 70s, and that is having an effect on the fishing, too. As waters cool, we enter that time of year when it is likely to run into quite a few different species of fish on a single outing.

While our snook and reds continue to provide good action, we are now seeing creatures like black drum and sheepshead gobbling up baits. Some of the drum are appearing in large schools just off the beaches, and some of these guys are in the 20-pound class. Most of the sheepshead caught so far are the smaller fish, but it won't be long before the filleting size are here in numbers.

Trout are making an appearance too, but numbers vary quite a bit from area to area. It seems that a more consistent bite is to be had well down in the Ten Thousand Islands, and a less reliable bite as you move north, but that will rapidly change as the fronts continue to pour down from the north, and water temperatures move steadily down.

Offshore, grouper, both gag and reds, are the hot item. With only a couple of weeks left of this year's gag season, it would be nice if the wind would give boaters a break, and make an offshore run possible. This could be your last chance at a keeper gag for a while because next year the proposed season for gags is when they are farthest offshore and out of reach of most anglers.

On a brighter offshore note, we are seeing the amberjack bite returning to local waters, and in no time at all we should be seeing some king mackerel busting baits in local waters. Right now, there are good numbers of Spanish mackerel ranging from just off the beach to well offshore, and some of the fish are ranging into the 3- to 5-pound range.

If you are going to be boating in the next few days, be careful because there are areas that would "float your boat" last week that will cause you to run aground, and that is a bad way to spend a few hours.

Offshore: Onboard the "Findictive," Capt. Mike Avion took out five anglers at the end of last week for a day on the water. They were after grouper and Capt. Mike did not disappoint.

The five anglers put 15 keeper grouper into the cooler, while releasing numerous other fish. There were nine reds and six gags ranging up to 12 pounds.

After the limits were in the box, Mike headed for some amberjack action, and not only were they willing to eat, they were big! Keeping three AJs to 40 pounds, the groups caught and released others up to 50 pounds. If you have ever tangled with one of these wrist breakers, you can imagine what a 50-pounder feels like. Capt. Mike says that he should start seeing king mackerel any day as the water cools and clears.

Capt. James Wheeler had three generations of the Weislog family onboard for a trip recently. Rob, Robert, and young Robbie (15) from the Milwaukee area were eager to catch some fish, and Capt. Jim complied.

Among the fish landed during their venture about eight miles offshore were; sharks, bonita, lane snapper, red grouper, and cobia. It was 15-year-old Robbie who had the catch of the day with a huge 48-inch cobia that was estimated at 32 pounds. Rob came through with the largest grouper, a nice 22-inch red that made his day. They used shrimp, squid, and live pins for bait.

Ten Thousand Islands: Fishing south of Everglades City, Capt. Pete Rapps was out on Monday with Kurt from Lake Worth. It didn't take long before Pete had them on the reds.

Fishing with a shrimp under a popping cork they hammered the reds with six of them in the slot. They kept two in the 24-inch range. Capt. Pete says he is also getting some smaller snook, which is a good sign that they are beginning to return to the Islands, but it will take a long time to replace what was lost in the freeze of 2010.

Some tarpon are in the rivers, and they are willing to eat a live mullet if you can keep the bull sharks away. They are very aggressive. Some slot trout and a few flounder are rounding out catches for Capt. Rapps.

Incoming or outgoing, the redfish have been cooperating for Capt. Andy Werner, who has been fishing south of Goodland recently. It has been tricky because of the exceptionally low tides recently, and you really have to watch were you are going and how long you can stay there, says Capt. Werner.

Despite water conditions, Andy has been hitting the reds pretty good. He has had his best luck using cut bait on them, but says one day it's cut ladyfish and the next day cut mullet that will coax a bite. The fish have been running in the mid-slot range of 22 to 25 inches, and only a few have fallen for a shrimp. Andy says that some larger snook are being caught using a fairly large finger mullet or small ladyfish that are worked in the deeper cuts. A few trout are being caught, even on the cut bait, but 12 to 20 reds is the norm for a half day of fishing.

Naples/Estero Bay: Capt. Jason Kaufman says that the reds seem to have spread out since the heavy rains and extreme tides in Estero Bay. He is using mostly white bait on his fish, and is consistently picking up reds in the 18- to 22-inch range.

On Friday, Jason took Mr. Collins from New Jersey out for a half day, and they did well on reds and caught snook in the 18- to 22-inch range. A few sizable jacks rounded out the catch.On Saturday, Capt. Neil Eisner reported that the water temperature dropped to 71 or 72 degrees, but that didn't stop the bite. Fishing with Ben Newcomb from Estero, they landed reds, snook, black drum, and three gags. Most of the reds are in the slot and are hitting shrimp on a jig or shrimp under a popping cork. Water conditions have been less than ideal.

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Fishing Report: Looks like we've gone from summer fishing straight to winter

By LARRY REGIENCZUK Posted October 26, 2011

NAPLES — I don't know what happened to fall, but it seems as though we went from summer fishing to winter fishing in the space of a couple of weeks.

The cold fronts are streaming down from the north with regularity, bringing the big winds that have become the norm for the past 10 days or so. When you have two-foot seas in the bays in October, something is seriously wrong, and if that isn't enough, we now have the minor threat of a late season hurricane later this weekend. Give us a break!

Fishing this past week has been affected, too. Not just the fact that a number of anglers just decided to stay home, but with strong north/northeast winds, the morning low tides have increased Florida real estate dramatically. Just how low was it? I saw someone plowing for corn this morning. You could hit bottom in any number of channels.

The bite for reds is still the best bet for inshore anglers, with the fish running in the 17- to 24-inch range, for the most part. When they are eating, they will pretty much eat anything you put in front of them, from artificials to a shrimp or cut bait. When they turn off the bite, I don't think even dynamite would work.

Snook have had their ups and down the last week, with some really good days and catches reported, and then there are the "other" days.

Some of the year's biggest fish are being caught around and in the passes, and some of these "big girls" are hitting the 20-pound mark. Big baits for big fish is the rule for these fish. Try a big pinfish or a very large pilchard, and weight it down in the current. In the bays and around the islands, there are plenty of smaller fish (at least in the Naples to Estero area) and they are eating shrimp, live pilchard or pins, as well as jigs and plugs.

The tarpon action that was going on in the early mornings seems to have been blown away (pun intended) in the last week. Maybe if we get a break, it will pick back up, but that is not likely, as the water temperatures are cooling fast.

Offshore anglers had to have strong stomachs and a big desire in order to brave the wild seas this past week. With winds upward of 20 knots on some days, the Gulf was a tad choppy.

Of the two captains I spoke with that did get out, the results were surprisingly good. Dramamine helped, but you wanted to make sure that you were not downwind of someone with a green complexion. The big question is, what will the track of the storm take, and how will it affect Southwest Florida, and not just the fishing.

Naples/Estero Bay: Friday morning, I had the pleasure of going out with Rudy Zikesch (86 years old) and his younger cousin Paul Rathke (only 79).

Bait was tough to come by in the morning, so we were using mostly shrimp on a jig. Rudy was hot. Once he got started, he was hard to stop. He would pitch his jig into his sweet spot, and a lot of the time the rod was instantly bent.

Cousin Paul was a little slow to start; he was after quality not quantity. He landed the big snook of the day, about 27 inches and six pounds. Between the two senior citizens, they landed 21 reds and 18 snook in four hours of fishing. A few jacks, sheepshead, and ladyfish joined in the fray, and all in all a great time for all involved, especially me.

Capt. Steve Nagy says that the fall migration of the near-shore species such as mackerel, kings, and bonita should be under way, if and when the seas settle down.

When he was able to get off the beach, he would look for the birds diving on bait to find fish, and use bucktails, spoons, or a live bait to coax a bite. Some of the mackerel are running in the three- to five-pound range, and even a few bluefish are making their appearance.

Snook are starting their move to winter haunts, and can be found on the inner islands and even back to the creeks. On a recent trip with Larry Culp and son Andrew, a good number of snook were boated and released, including a jumbo 38-inch fish caught by Andrew, followed 30 minutes later with a 33-incher caught by Dad.

Ten Thousand Islands: Recent winds have churned up the water pretty badly, which has slowed the bite somewhat, but Capt. Jeff Lugutki has been out there throwing flys and plugs with some success.

Blind casting to likely points and shoreline, Jeff has had anglers on both reds and snook. Most of the snook are running smaller, with the upper-sized ones in the 25- to 26-inch range, and the reds are in the 17- to 24-inch group.

With a lot of very small baits coming in with the tide, Capt. Lugutki has been "matching the hatch," using a small sparse white fly to coax the bite. The tarpon that had been active on the early morning outgoing seem to have left, at least for now. Recently Jeff had onboard Dr. Max Kamermann, and he did a good job on reds up to 26 inches, as well as a number of aggressive jack crevalle in the four- to seven-pound range.

Capt. Steve Hatcher has been running south into the park to find better water conditions recently. Bait availability is zip, so Steve has been loading up on shrimp to use on jigs.

The best bite has been with the reds running in the 17- to 24-inch range, and when located will eagerly eat the offered shrimp. Some smaller snook are taking the jigs as well, but the better story is the improving bite with trout. Fish ranging in the 15- to 18-inch range are being hooked in the same areas where Steve is finding reds. James Moore nailed reds to 24 inches on a recent trip, as well as getting into jacks and ladyfish.

Offshore: Capt. Bob Fisher of the "Sea Spirit" had a couple of groups that just had to get out fishing, and he made it happen.

On Saturday, he had Don Jorgensen, along with two sons and three grandkids, onboard. Worried about heavy seas, they only ventured out about eight miles in three- to four-foot waves. The trip was worth it, and the kids were kept busy with bent rods. Among the catch were numbers of short grouper, nice lane snapper, mangrove snapper, bluefish, and three blacktip sharks that were about three feet long. Everyone had a great time, and the fillets were cooked up as soon as the boat docked. Monday's trip resulted in similar results, along with some four-pound Spanish mackerel.

Winds Tuesday were up to 20 knots, but Capt. Tom Robinson had a group of hearty souls that just had to go.

After a slow and wild ride out about 20 miles, three out of four of Ed Fulmer's group were adding their own chum to the seas, but it was worth it. Not only did they end up with five keeper gag grouper to 31 inches (and 17 pounds), a beastly 42-inch cobia inhaled a bait, and after quite a battle was brought on board. It weighed out at 35 pounds! One keeper red at 24 inches as well as lots of shorts made the day. Oh, and to top that off, they fought and landed a seven-foot nurse shark.

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How to Find a Guide

Shorten the Learning Curve - Save Money & Time -
More Productive Fishing - all good reasons. Here's one more....

(excerpt from Secrets from Florida's Master Anglers)

Do a little research before booking a guide.

Friends and acquaintances are good sources for recommendations, but if none are available for your intended destination, use the internet.

Most professional guides maintain web sites that can be found by Googling the location you want to fish. Organizations such as the Florida Guides Association ( are also good sources.

"These organizations," says Capt. Tom Van Horn, "hold their members to high standards. Members are required to provide their legitimacy annually."

Proof of a Coast Guard captain’s license, a state issued vessel license that covers all anglers on the boat, marine insurance that includes liability coverage and adherence to a stated code of ethics are some of the things to look for in a qualified guide.

You can email the captain and ask questions before you book.
Why Hire a Guide?

Now here's your part.

These are just a few of the responses given to Ron when he asked top guides "What do you expect from a client on a charter fishing trip?"

Guide #1: Guests should recognize that not every day will be full of fish and aim to share a fun day on the water.

Guide #2: I value clients who discuss their experience and level of fishing skills before the trip. Let me know if inexperienced anglers, small children or special needs persons will be accompanying them. This assists me in planning the strategy for the day.

Guide #3: Patience and willingness to listen is the best virtue of a prospective client. I want to accommodate them in every way. Their willingness to trust me and follow instructions will normally improve the day’s productivity.

Guide #4: I really appreciate it when my clients show up on time and are prepared to deal with the weather and willing to listen and learn.

I expect them to stay sober...
Read 'the rest of the story,
' in "Secrets from Florida's Master Anglers."

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